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30-plus contract calls in 10 months to reshape Broncos roster

It has taken more than 30 individual roster moves and a small nation's GDP in salary cap shifting, but Kevin Walters finally has a Broncos outfit that feels like his own after 10 months of upheaval unlike any other in Red Hill history.

Walters's remit to lift Brisbane from their lowest ebb has steadily gathered steam in recent months, with five 2022 signings and a dozen extensions for the likes of Kotoni Staggs, Jordan Riki, Jake Turpin, Selwyn Cobbo and Keenan Palasia on Thursday among others.

Far more significantly in realigning a roster once dubbed "disgusting" by new football manager Ben Ikin though, has been nine early contract releases since last November.

Much-maligned five-eighth Anthony Milford will follow at season's end, as will Origin flyer Xavier Coates after Melbourne won the mid-season stoush for his signature.

In total the early exits – that started with Joe Ofahengaue, Jack Bird and Andrew McCullough before the season began, then included Matt Lodge and Tevita Pangai jnr, and just this week saw Brodie Croft join Tom Dearden in departing Brisbane's scrumbase – amount to more than $4 million in estimated salaries coming off the Broncos books.

As Ikin freely admitted to last month, the Broncos will still contribute a significant, seven-figure sum of Lodge and Pangai's wages over the next few seasons, having already paid around $500,000 of Bird's salary at St George Illawarra this season, as well as freight on McCullough and Ofahengaue.

Such is the price of the constant turnover during Walters's first NRL campaign.

But with a veteran middle forward seen as one of Brisbane's final 2022 roster pieces, Walters is closing in on a coach's most essential tool of the trade: a roster of his own making.

"We've still got a few more signings to go but I feel the club, since the re-set, is moving in the right direction and a lot of that has to do with the playing group we are keeping on board for next year's roster," Walters said ahead of Friday's clash with the Roosters.

Asked if he anticipated calling the roster 'his own' within a year of taking charge at Red Hill, Walters responded: "Because I was venturing into a bit of the unknown I wasn't sure how long it would take and we're still not there yet.

"We have made some progress this year re-shaping our roster but there's still more to do.

"It's not just me either, we've got a group of guys from the CEO [Dave Donaghy] to Benny Ikin, [recruitment officer] Simon Scanlan and [board member] Darren Lockyer all working together to come up with the right decisions around our roster and we need to make sure we get that right.

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"We don't have a lot of money in our salary cap, we've just got to make sure we bring the right people in in the next two or three years to make sure the club maintains the right direction heading north."

Tying down in-form fullback Tesi Niu remains Brisbane's next priority, with negotiations progressing well in recent weeks despite rival NRL interest.

Adding an experienced prop – Canberra's Ryan James continues to loom as a preferred option – is expected to be the club's last significant foray into the current player market, while extensions for Albert Kelly and Jesse Arthurs are also on the cards.

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Danny Levi is believed to be weighing up a potential Super League move while John Asiata is also unlikely to be in Brisbane's plans when his current one-year deal expires.

Walters also acknowledged the "squeeze" in second-row stocks that could well force Alex Glenn's hand on a retirement call, saying "that's something Alex has got to make a decision on" in his time.

As for any talk around his own future, which his captain said was worthy of an extension beyond 2022, Walters said finishing the final month of this season strongly remains the priority.

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"When the season's done we'll look at that. But I'm not in any hurry," Walters said.

"I'm very comfortable with where I'm at with the club, the recent re-set that we had after round 15 has been great.

"I can see a lot of change happening with our staff as well which makes me feel really positive about the next few years."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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